Hundreds flee as scores of wildfires rage on Australia’s east coast

Hundreds flee as scores of wildfires rage on Australia’s east coast

Scores of wildfires continue to rage across vast tracts of Australia’s drought-stricken east coast, forcing hundreds of residents to flee their homes, some for the second time in a week.

The most intense fires were in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, although a fire emergency warning was also issued for the west coast city of Geraldton.

New South Wales has lost more than 200 homes since Friday, while 14 have been destroyed in south-east Queensland.

Smoke billows from wildfires in Wollemi, New South Wales (Australian Broadcasting Corporation/AP)
Smoke billows from wildfires in Wollemi, New South Wales (Australian Broadcasting Corporation/AP)

Some communities have been evacuated repeatedly as the fire danger recedes, then returns with flames fanned by strong wind changes.

Tony Wellington, mayor of the Queensland town of Noosa North Shore, said residents were being evacuated for the second time in a week.

“It’s bad enough being evacuated once let alone multiple times,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “It’s terribly distressing, always, to be evacuated.”

A severe fire danger warning was in place for much southern Queensland, with soaring temperatures and thunderstorms expected.

Hot, dry and windy weather conditions on the east coast (Nasa/AP)
Hot, dry and windy weather conditions on the east coast (Nasa/AP)

“We’ve got another tough day today and there is an extended forecast that we are not out the woods by any means,” said Michael Wassing of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commission.

The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 450 fire damage claims in the disaster areas.

In New South Wales, more than 50 homes were damaged or destroyed and 13 firefighters were injured overnight by catastrophic wildfires across that subsided on Wednesday.

At one point on Tuesday, 16 fires raged out of control at emergency level simultaneously across New South Wales, a near record number.

Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned that rain is not forecast for months.

State premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was relieved that the destruction on Tuesday had not been worse.

A week-long state of emergency for New South Wales was declared on Monday, with Tuesday forecast to be the most dangerous day.

“I have to confess to being hugely relieved this morning that yesterday our amazing volunteers and emergency service personnel withstood the catastrophic conditions and did manage to save life and property,” she said.

Mr Fitzsimmons said none of the injured firefighters had been seriously hurt.

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